Tuesday, August 30, 2011

$290.00 [First Strike Soft Bait]

Saturday, August 27, 2011:  The day my animals ate rat poison and almost died but lived instead.

Part I. Strange Bedfellows
A few hours after Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina, and about thirty minutes before New York City shut down public transportation, I noticed Lola the cat and Betelgeuse the dog hanging out together near one of the built-in storage units in the living room.  Suspicious, because Lola and Betelgeuse don't hang out near the built-in storage units and they certainly don't hang out together.

A bright-blue substance covered the ground, almost like dried modeling clay, along with some ripped-up scraps of thin paper.  The paper read "First Strike Soft Bait" and something about keeping it of reach of children and pets.  Betelgeuse's mouth was blue.  I yelled for Kyler. 

We Googled First Strike Soft Bait, which is a "highly effective" rat poison, tried to clean out Betelgeuse's mouth, and called the veterinarian.  Despite the approaching hurricane, the vet office was open.  We loaded the two dogs and, after some trouble, the cat into the car and made our way to the vet.

Part II. Q&A
What is First Strike Soft Bait? First Strike Soft Bait is a rodenticide.  In its packaged form, it looks like this:

The "effective" ingredient is difethialone, an anti-coagulant.  When swallowed, it reduces the ability of blood to clot so that exposed animals bleed internally and die after a few days.  Vitamin K1, however, is an effective antidote for anticoagulant poisoning.  The three-day wait time plus the Vitamin K1 antidote make this type of rodenticide safer for "non-target species" (e.g., your dog or cat).  The first-generation acute rodenticides resulted in almost immediate death and there was no antidote to reverse the effects.  Kyler's childhood dog, Sparky, died from accute rodenticide ingestion up on his parents' farm in Pennsylvania, and one of my childhood cats, Thunder, suffered the same fate in our neighborhood in Virginia Beach.

Why was there Rodenticide in the Living Room? I'm still getting to the bottom of this one.  There was a missing panel from the bottom of the built-in storage unit, adjacent to the floorboard.  I hadn't noticed it before.

I assume that master huntress Lola chased a bug or maybe even a mouse into or out of this hole.  In batting at the pest, she may have dislodged the rodent bait, and the rodent bait's "delicate aroma" (an actual quote from the rodenticide website) attracted Betelgeuse, who loves to (1) tear up paper and (2) eat nasty stuff.  Whether Lola ate the rat poison remains a mystery.

Our landlord bought the building in June and has assured me that, since then, no rodenticides or pesticides have been placed in the building.  Everything in the apartment was newly renovated before our July move in -- except for the bathroom vanity cabinet and the built-in storage units.  The hole in the storage unit pictured above is now triple-blocked.

Back to the story, but first, an intermission / warning:  Any readers who may suffer from some form of emetophobia should not continue reading this post.  All three animals survived, I promise, but it was not pretty.  Alternatively, you can read only the parts about Lola, who is also a vomit-phobe and, despite various chemical inducements, refused to expel the contents of her stomach.

Part III. Vet Visit O' Vomit
When we arrived at the vet, the vet techs immediately took Betelgeuse and Lola to the back and administered emetics to induce vomiting.  For Betelgeuse, apomorphine hydrochloride, which can be applied topically to the eye.  I am unclear on what was used for Lola, which didn't work anyway.  Emetics work best within 2-3 hours after ingestion of the poison and generally empty 40-60% of the stomach contents. 

At this point, we also handed over Lulu, who -- although not in the room when I caught Lola and Betelgeuse -- we could not confirm was NOT snacking on rodenticide.  As she carried Lulu into the back, the vet said, "It's a good thing you caught it, or they would have all been dead in three days."  This is the worst thought ever.  Partial dramatic preenactment below:

Turns out, Lulu would in fact have remained alive.  She was brought out to us in the reception area after only a few minutes of vomiting in the back (and a Cerenia injection, to stop the vomiting), looking more pathetic than usual.  Only grass and bile in there.  Good for you, Lulu, and sorry for that, but you should exercise better judgment in choosing your friends. 

Meanwhile, Lola was still refusing to vomit, and Betelgeuse had vomited enough of the blue stuff to have killed all of us.  Strangely enough, there was another dog at the vet, purging in the back with my animals -- a pug named Alan, who had just eaten two-thirds of a bar of 72% cacao dark chocolate.  Oh, Alan, of cultivated tastes, vomiting expensive chocolate alongside my troglodytic pup, who prefers to feast on old rat poison in the walls.

Part IV. Activated Charcoal (Plus More Vomit)
After stomachs were emptied (or not, in the case of Lola), the vet administered activated charcoal in the form of Toxiban.  Activated charcoal absorbs toxicants and facilitates their excretion. It attracts and holds the toxicants so that they pass through the gastrointestinal tract without being absorbed by the body. 

Here illustrates some of the differences between cats and dogs:  The techs had to force-feed the Toxiban to Lola.  When I next saw her, there was charcoal all over her face; days later, she is still grooming herself.  She never threw up.  On the other hand, Betelgeuse eagerly ate the Toxiban, which is sweetened with sugar.  Then she threw it all up in the backseat of the car.  We got some more to give her, and she eagerly ate it again.  If we presented her with rat poison, she would also eat it again.  A cat would not do this.

Part V. Vitamin K and Hurricane Irene
The vet prescribed Vitamin K1 supplements twice a day for the next thirty days for Betelgeuse (to keep her alive) and Lola (to maybe keep her alive).  And they will need to have their clotting cascade tested at the end of the month to make sure everything is okay, which I think it will be.

In other news, Hurricane Irene passed over Brooklyn on Sunday morning, fairly uneventfully in our neck of the borough (no sea of floating dog poop after all).  We were fortunate, and I was grateful for no additional excitement after the whole my-pets-ate-rat-poison-and-almost-died thing on Saturday. 

The End
The story doesn't have a sad ending, which is a happy ending.  $290.00 for veterinary services that saved my pets' lives, yet again, and for some new gray hairs on the head of yours truly.


  1. Ugh, what a horrifying tale. I'm so sorry you had to go through all that, but I am so happy that everything turned out okay and you were able to save Betel. That's as noteworthy as the fact that she ate the rat poison at all. She owes you big time now. If I were you, I'd remind her of that often.

  2. I'm so glad Betel and Lola are OK. That's such a crazy story. Glad you guys weathered the storm.

  3. Just had the exact same thing happen to me today. Dog ate one of those packets entirely. Rushed her to the vet and they did the same thing you listed. She's on the K1 tablets now, let's hope it's all over.

  4. I spoke to a pest control and rodent exterminator pro and it turns out that they work very hard to secure all bait on premises while performing rodent control. Once the service is done, they completely remove all bait in the secured bait boxes. Very important since I have a German Shorthair who is part of the fam!